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Posts Tagged ‘higgledy-piggledy’

Photo: Maxpixel.net.
When Suzanne got Basil as a kitten, he looked a lot like this.

I hesitate to do a post about the rhymes I made when my children were small because there are several actual poets who read the blog. I have no aspirations in the poetical line.

What got me on the train of thought, though, was a memory I had the other day about the cat we once had, Basil.

I remembered how when the kids were young, if they were bored or restless, I sometimes said out of the blue, “Let’s pretend Basil is a fox.”

That always stopped them in their tracks. I mean, how does one pretend a cat is a fox in the first place? The kids were usually able to find something to entertain themselves after that break in the mood.

I liked to make up silly rhymes about Basil. There was a counting rhyme that still comes into my head sometimes when I count. And there was this one:

Basil, Basil, you’re a cat
Never try denying that.
Stand up for your kitty mother,
Turn your back on no cat brother.
When the cat god calls your name,
Let there be no cause for blame.
Future generations all
Will praise the cat who heard the call.

Then there was an attempt at lyrics to be sung in winter to the tune of “I’m Looking Over a Four-Leaf Clover.”

What is the reason that we’re all freezin’
And the birdbath is filled with ice?
Why does my Omni go sideways down the street?
Why do my children wear baggies on their feet?

What normal fellow whose brains aren’t Jello
Would keep fighting this cold war?
What is the reason that we’re all freezin’,
And what did we move here for?

The music teacher that Suzanne had in elementary school actually used that one in a class.

Suzanne’s friend Joanna was amused by the goofy ending of this one back in the ’80s:

Think how lovely it would be
Living always by the sea,
Eating muffins with your tea.
And jam.

Finally, I offer a nonsense poem called a double dactyl. (A dactyl is a rhythm with a hard stress first, followed by two light ones, as in the name “BEV-er-ly.”)

I just had to try it out after reading an entertaining book by the real poets John Hollander and Anthony Hecht. The form is described in the encyclopedia Britannica, which says in part, “One line in the second stanza must consist of a single word. According to the introduction to Jiggery-Pokery: A Compendium of Double Dactyls (1967), edited by the poets Anthony Hecht and John Hollander, this single word should appear ‘somewhere in the poem, though preferably in the second stanza, and ideally in the antepenultimate line,’ though that ambivalence has, for some, hardened into a rule that the word must appear in the poem’s sixth line. (Jiggery-Pokery credits Hecht, the scholar Paul Pascal, and Naomi Pascal, his wife, with having invented the form over lunch in Rome in 1951.)”

If I remember correctly, my double dactyl went as follows below. (I had to look up the Greek word, which means “rosy-fingered.” I used to know such things, and double dactyl rules encourage throwing in other languages.)

Higgledy-piggledy
Fabius Maximus
Waiting for Hannibal
Wasn’t a dope.

Dixit the Cunctator
Demosthenistically
Dawn ῥοδοδάκτυλος
Always brings hope.

l sent it to Hecht, who had a teaching job not far from our home at the time, and he liked it. I think because it followed all the rules.

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